Drinking honeysuckle tea could help ward off flu

When boiled and drunk the Chinese herb helped suppress the effects of the influenza virus in mice, effectively acting as a “virological penicillin”.

Honeysuckle tea has been drunk for centuries in China to help fight flu, but the study provides the first scientific evidence to support the tradition, researchers said.

Trials showed that it could be effective against several variants of flu which have caused major public health scares in recent years, includingH1N1 “Spanish Flu” and H5N1 avian flu.

The team from Nanjing University found that after drinking a “soup” of honeysuckle, mice absorbed a molecule from the plant known as MIR 2911 into their bloodstream and lung tissue.

The molecule was shown to suppress various types of flu virus by blocking two genes which are used by the influenza virus to replicate itself.

Results published in the Cell Researchjournal showed that it helped reduce death in mice from H5N1 flu and help prevent infection with other flu types including H1N1.

The scientists said their experiment was the first to show that a natural product can directly target a virus, although it has not yet been proven to be effective in humans.

“Since Fleming discovered penicillin nearly a century ago, antibiotics have been developed to target various bacterial infections and have saved the lives of millions of people,” the university said in a statement.”

“For [one] thousand years, Chinese have been drinking honeysuckle decoction to treat influenza viral infections and the results show that honeysuckle decoction has a broad-spectrum antiviral activity.”


The Unsettling Beauty of Lethal Viruses

To create a body of work he calls “Glass Microbiology,” [Luke] Jerram has enlisted the help of virologist Andrew Davidson from the University of Bristol and the expertise of professional glassblowers Kim George, Brian George and Norman Veitch. Together, the cross-disciplinary team brings hazardous pathogens, such as the H1N1 virus or HIV, to light in translucent glass forms.

The artist  insists that his sculptures be colorless, in contrast to the images scientists sometimes disseminate that are enhanced with bright hues. “Viruses have no color as they are smaller than the wavelength of light,” says Jerram, in an email. “So the artworks are created as alternative representations of viruses to the artificially colored imagery we receive through the media.” Jerram and Davidson create sketches, which they then take to the glassblowers, to see whether the intricate structures of the diseases can be replicated in glass, at approximately one million times their original size. - Continue reading at Smithsonian.com.


The first complete influenza virion 3D model
at an atomic level of resolution, using a molecular modelling approach.
Created by Visual Science based on recent scientific publications and in communication with researchers

  • This model of the influenza virus A/H1N1 is based on X-ray analysis data of the structure of the virion proteins.
  • The shape of the particle and the density of the surface proteins were modeled according to cryo-electron microscopy data.
  • This model allows the observation of images up to 30,000×30,000 pixels, which is adequate to produce a 3×3 m quality photograph.

Continue reading …
Go to the online 3D model

And check out the other Visual Science models (including the human papilloma virus, the Ebola virus, and the HIV virus.

Swine Influenza A (H1N1) Virus

In 2010, the Visual Science company developed this detailed model of the influenza A (H1N1) virus. (Note that only the viral envelope is visible in this visualization; the nucleocapsid core is hidden inside.) The shape of the virion, which ranges from 80 to 170 nm in diameter, and the density of the surface proteins were modeled according to cryo-electron microscopy data.1 The tertiary structure of the viral proteins—hemagglutinin (red), neuraminidase (large black), and M2-protein channels (small black)—were modeled using data from X-ray crystallography.

These proteins facilitate binding of the virus to host cell receptors, subsequent endosomal fusion and viral release from the cells.2 The … M2-protein channels … play a critical role in the early phase of infection leading to the uncoating and release of viral RNP.3

Individual atoms of phospholipid molecules (orange) comprising the membrane are also observable.

References: (1) A. Harris et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; (2) J. J. Skehel and D. C. Wiley, Annual Review of Biochemistry; (3) D. P. Nayak et al., Virus Research.

Image credit: the Visual Science company.

New analysis of ‘swine flu’ pandemic conflicts with accepted views on how diseases spread

New analysis of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic in the US has been done by a  team of researchers from University of Cambridge and the US, including Princeton University and National Institutes of Health. They analysed data gathered from health insurance claims made throughout 2009 from 271 American cities and their surrounding suburban areas, covering 90% of the population of the 48 contiguous states.

The data were used to test mathematical models to pinpoint the role and importance of factors associated with H1N1’s arrival and spread, including demographics, school opening dates, humidity levels and immunity from previous outbreaks.

According to this new analysis, school-age children accelerated the spread of the pandemic, which was transmitted over short distances, in contrast with widespread reports at the time linking the pandemic to international air travel and population density. The results are published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.

The Spanish Flu Pandemic

The 1918 influenza A (H1N1) virus caused what may have been the most lethal pandemic in the history of humankind.1 Marc Lallanilla from ABC News recounts its grim tale, writing:

It started on a small military base in central Kansas, when one soldier came down with a fever. Within a few hours, about 100 soldiers had reported to the Fort Riley infirmary with the same complaint.

By 1919, one year later, the so-called Spanish flu had spread around the world, killing an estimated 50 million people, with more than 500,000 dead in the U.S. (That included 195,000 just in the single month of October 1918.) The disease took more lives than the black plague, and more than all the wars of the 20th century combined.2

Unlike most strains of influenza, which disproportionately kill juvenile, elderly, or already weakened patients, the 1918 Spanish flu mostly killed young adults. In fact, more than half of the deaths occurred in young adults between 20 and 40 years old.3,4 In order to identify the characteristics that made the Spanish flu so deadly for otherwise healthy people, microbiologists “resurrected” the virus from a well-preserved corpse buried in the permafrost of Alaska.5

In their study, the 1918 virus provoked the subjects’ immune systems to go into overdrive, causing immune proteins to be expressed at abnormally high levels and immune cells to attack the body — what immunologists call a cytokine storm.6 Since young adults have a relatively stronger immune system, this finding helped explain the unusual pattern of fatality associated with the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

After ravaging the world for about a year and killing 3 to 5 percent of the world’s population, deaths associated with the Spanish flu dropped abruptly (and somewhat mysteriously).7,8 Before long, the Spanish flu became what some historians called the “forgotten pandemic” — that was, until bird flu emerged in the mid-2000s.9 Both strains bear a number of genetic similarities, and both developed in birds.10 Is humanity on the verge of a second Spanish flu?

References: (1) Alex Santoso, Neatorama; (2) Marc Lallanilla, ABC News; (3) Molly Billings, Virology at Stanford University; (4) L. Simonsen et al., Journal of Infectious Diseases; (5ScienceDaily; (6) Darwyn Kobasa, et al., Nature; (7) Michael Anissimov, wiseGEEK; (8) John M. Barry, 2004; (9) Alfred W. Crosby, 2003; (10) Brian Handwerk, National Geographic.

Photo: courtesy of the Otis Historical Archives, National Museum of Health & Medicine; edited by E. K. Graham.


It seems that as of late, the H1N1 virus is getting around again, and it’s a really nasty strain. There are people in their young adulthood who are getting sick and dying from it. In Oregon, 2 people have died and 81 people hospitalized because of it. And especially with people staying indoors because of the massive freeze that’s sweeping the nation, it can spread much faster.

So please!!! Do yourself a favor!! Get a flu shot! Wash your hands after going out and every time you’re about to eat! Sneeze and cough into your arm or a tissue!!

Be safe and spread this (not the flu!) so that way everyone knows that we need to be worried about this. I’d hate for any of you to get it out of the blue and have to take over you faster than you can be treated. Remember, people at the physical peak of their lives are dying because of this virus.

Stay safe and healthy!!

A hundred more deaths over the last three days have taken the swine flu death toll 585. While the Centre has ordered additional stocks of medicines and diagnostic kits, hospitals have started running out of Tamiflu and protective masks.

So far, 8,423 people have contracted swine flu this year in the country. Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are the worst-affected states with respective tolls standing at 165, 144, 76 and 58, official figures said. Though Delhi and Tamil Nadu have reported a high incidence of swine flu cases, the death toll in the two states is relatively low due to high level of awareness and better health infrastructure.

Central teams, which have been sent to the worst-affected states like Rajasthan and Gujarat, have developed appropriate guidelines. “The government has already placed an order for enhancing stocks of diagnostic kits — for testing of the H1N1 virus – to be supplied to the lab network under Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme. To enhance the level of preparedness, additional stocks of the drug, Oseltamivir, and 10,000 N-95 masks are also being procured,” an official statement said.

Meanwhile, sources in several hospitals say that masks and medicine are in short supply. “There are no masks in our hospital. Doctors are working at a very high risk. There is also hoarding of vaccines that has raised prices from the usual Rs 750 to Rs 1000,” said a source in a Delhi government hospital. Private hospitals too have started refusing patients citing Tamiflu shortage. A patient who was diagnosed at Max Saket was told to procure the medicine from outside. A hospital spokesperson when contacted said that she was not aware of any shortage.

With more cases of swine flu being reported from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) in the last 24 hours, authorities on Monday suspended all classes in the university and its affiliated schools till February 25.

The decision was taken at an emergency meeting of top officials presided over by Acting Vice-Chancellor Brig S Ahmad Ali.  All events in AMU, including seminars, workshops and meetings of executive council scheduled during this period, have been postponed till further orders as a precautionary measure.
However, all offices, including academic departments, hospitals and other institutions will continue to function and teachers would report to duty as usual, AMU spokesperson Rahat Abrar said in a statement.

DOH faced with double-edged sword of A(H1N1), dengue alarms

MANILA, Philippines – For the Department of Health (DOH), the globally feared Influenza A(H1N1) virus could not have come at a worse time than in the middle of the year – the same time cases of dengue, another “medical emergency,” usually reach their peak.

As early as late April – around the same time the flu virus began spreading outside Mexico – Philippine health officials scrambled to address the emerging crisis.

Immediately, the government laid down preventive measures to ensure that the virus won’t reach Philippine shores: from installing thermal scanners to preparing stocks of anti-viral drugs, even going as far as banning pork importation.

With the discovery of the first confirmed A(H1N1) case in late May, the DOH had never been busier. It set out on a complex and meticulous process of tracing every single person who had contact with an infected patient – part of what it called “containment process.”

Now that the rainy season has arrived, the Philippines faces the problem of containing not just the spread of the A(H1N1) virus but also the dengue virus.

“This is really a challenge for us because we are faced with a double burden,” Dr. Eric Tayag, chief epidemiologist of the DOH, told GMANews.TV on Tuesday.

Tayag, however, assured that the department was “still on top of the situation.”

He said the fact that the government’s anti-dengue campaign “has long been institutionalized” made things easier for the DOH. Given that dengue cases are always expected to rise during the rainy season, the DOH makes it a point to intensify information drives at this time of the year.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III also made the same assurance, saying his department could juggle between handling cases of A(H1N1) and the long-time problems posed by dengue.

“Ang dengue, dapat talaga mas-bantayan ngayon because this is a medical emergency [We really have to keep watch of the dengue cases because this is a medical emergency],” the Health secretary said in a radio interview.

Duque said unlike the mutant flu virus, the effects of the dengue virus could not be eased or eliminated by any vaccine or drug.

Focus on dengue

In a separate interview with GMANews.TV, Dr. Antonietta Inumerable echoed the DOH officials’ observation on the twin health problems and stressed that although both the flu and dengue viruses raise major health concerns, the DOH should focus more on the latter.

“If given the preference, the dengue cases should be given more priority because if left unattended, the result could really be severe,” said Inumerable, who is head of the Quezon City health department.

Inumerable’s suggestion would seem sound if figures were solely to be used as basis.

From January to May, 275 dengue cases were recorded in Quezon City alone. Although the figure is a 58-percent drop from that of the same period last year, more people died this year.

Nine people succumbed to dengue around the same period last year, while 14 died since the start of 2009.

In contrast, the Quezon City government has not recorded any confirmed cases of A(H1N1) infection, despite being home to almost three million people. No one from the city had ever been included in the DOH’s contact tracing.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are about 50 million cases of dengue infection worldwide every year, and the disease is epidemic in more than 100 countries.

In contrast, 73 countries have officially reported 25,288 cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection, including 139 deaths.


But Tayag explained that as far as the national government is concerned, it is not taking any preference between attending to A(H1N1) and dengue cases, saying “both are equally important.”

The chief epidemiologist said attention should not veer away from dengue because it has long been established that the virus when left unaddressed could claim many lives. But also, focus should be given to the A(H1N1) virus because – though having a low one-percent fatality rate – it remains shrouded in mystery.

“The virus is still unknown and unpredictable. Kung baga sa pagkain, tinitimpla pa natin siya [We are still testing the waters],” Tayag said.

Inumerable said she does not mind if the DOH appears to be “overreacting” on the flu scare.

“At least, our preparedness is being tested. Although the A(H1N1) scare seems overblown, we are already assured that we can handle the situation if ever things worsen,” the chief city health official said.

She said that arrival of the flu scare in the country had not affected the city health department’s operations one single bit. “We are not suffering. We are actually integrating all the activities and the information campaign,” she said.

The dengue and the A(H1N1) virus can both be prevented through proper hygiene, she said. Cleaning the surrounding would ward off mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus, while thorough washing of your hands would lessen the chances of contracting the flu virus.

Inumerable said that this year’s anti-dengue information drive through lectures were no longer limited to households and schools, but have also spanned city and village halls. - GMANews.TV

Alone in a Masquerade
When we were in Hong Kong and the first confirmed case of A(H1N1) was announced in the area, though I know it was very uncomfortable, I wore mask. With the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong it seems not surprising to see people who don’t mind other people wearing mask.

Last June 6, I flew back to Manila. That time, there were confirmed cases of A(H1N1). Before entering the waiting area, I wore mask and all through out the flight. i even had hand sanitizer in my pocket.

There were about 10% of the passengers who wore mask. People at my back started talking about people started wearing mask. They said that it was on OA move. I was about to confront them but I just didnt’ mind them because it was their opinion. Suddenly they started to panic when  “health declaration” forms were distributed. They might not know that there are confirmed cases in Manila and that most of the cases were the people who travelled. I wore my mask until before I got in our car.

Monday was my scheduled flight back to Singapore. Before entering the airport, I wore my N95 mask. People started looking at me like I have a contagious disease. Actually, people who are sick should wear mask, not the people who are well. I wasn’t feeling unwell but I wore mask just for small % protection against virus.

At the waiting area, I noticed that I was the only one wearing mask but there were a lot of people who were sneezing and coughing and they didn’t even bother to cover their mouths. I was so uncomfortable with it honestly having the only person who wore mask, but it’s for my own prevention.

The whole flight, I wondered if people thought of me as the “infected” or what. It was one heck of experience, the feeling of looking strange for some people.
Climate Change Likely to Cause Uptick in Infectious Disease

Climate Change Likely to Cause Uptick in Infectious Disease

by Adam Novak / TckTckTck

Mosquito, a disease vector. Creative Commons: Enrique Dans, 2007

Climate change is creating conditions that are likely to increase the rate of infectious disease worldwide.

That’s the key findings of two new studies that show viruses such as Ebola, H1N1 and TB, as well as dengue and yellow fevers could spread further and become more frequent because of our changing…

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